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I have some questions related to copyright. I think (and I have also read sth. like this) that for many cases the information itself is perhaps not protected (just the way it is collected and presented). I have some examples and would like to know your opinion.

  1. If I have added a stream but I don't know its name, am I allowed to use Google Maps for clarification? If not, that would be somewhat peculiar, because I could also look to Google Maps, transfer it to my "general knowledge" and then use that as source ;) – Where do you get your information about names of streams etc. from?

  2. Quite similar: I look at Google Maps and see a drain which is in my region but still not on OpenStreetMap. Can I use this to get a vague view of how it goes and then draw it using the Bing satellite image (in which it can't be entirely seen, however).

  3. And bus stops again: Is this information piece legally protected? If I buy a schedule, am I not allowed to use the information (of course, I don't want to copy the schedule but to use the information it contains)? Is that really the case?! Would be very strange.

  4. General information/addresses: If I have a POI, can I use sources like (online or offline) phone directories to get out the correct address and things like when it's opened/closed etc.?

asked 25 Apr '13, 20:28

Markus_'s gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 21 Nov '14, 21:52

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦

Collections of information are protected by copyright, but individual facts are not (though their expression may be).

To answer your questions, as far as I know:

  1. From my understanding of copyright, this is likely to be alright. It is though against OSM policy. As someone mentioned in the comments on this OSM follows a policy of whiter than white. They take no chances. Your best bet is to ask the locals or see if you can't find the data in a free resource like Wikipedia.
  2. Don't actually have an answer for this one. I would wager to say probably not.
  3. This is almost certainly something that is allowed by copyright law, and while I am not sure of OSM's policy on this, I would think it to be a bad idea to say no. This is not information that you can get by surveying, and facts (like bus pickup times) are not protected by copyright law. OSM is a completely different expression of them.
  4. Phonebook listings do not meet the threshold for creativity under US Copyright law and therefore may be freely copied (see Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 [1991]). I am not sure about other places. You may run into issues with database rights here.

All of this said, OSM policy dictates that you should survey yourself whereever possible.

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answered 21 Nov '14, 20:34

zellfaze's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 21 Nov '14, 20:50

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦


Just a general comment on this rather old thread: googles Terms of Service do not allow using of the googles products to create maps and similar, while question of copyright may be interesting, you are still violating a civil law contract in such a case.

(22 Nov '14, 10:27) SimonPoole ♦

These are my opinions on your 4 questions:

  1. If a copyrighted map named or spelt the stream incorrectly, which is sometimes used as a trap, and you copied that they could probably prove you have copied their data.
  2. not sure but could also be a copyright trap , so better to survey, then use bing
  3. if a company as compiled data and published a time table they may rightly object to free distribution especially if they earn money for their work.
  4. same as 3 so go and collect data on the ground ..
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answered 25 Apr '13, 21:12

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
accept rate: 4%

edited 06 Jun '14, 16:10

Harry%20Wood's gravatar image

Harry Wood

Well, I expected that kind of answer. You're arguing that wrong information could be used as "trap" in order to "prove" copies. However, I do not intend to violate copyright restrictions and exploit legal grey areas; I just don't really think this bare piece of information (as you find in the local phone directory etc.) as in question (2) is protected. I mean, what is the problem to use other sources to gather information? It looks a bit like the common policy would be to reinvent the wheel which is somewhat discouraging.

The concrete example: There are two streams that might be named near my village: The first one is already named but not as the local people call it, I would say, but can be correct anyway. The second one is not named, and mostly not even drawn (only a small piece I have drawn using my knowledge and Bing). And I do not know what it's called, either - except for the name I found out with Google Maps. How should I find out if I am not allowed to use other maps? Where do you get your information from? What if I use several local maps to find it out? There's also the possibility to give a source for information and I think the source could be also propritary as the information itself is not protected.

There are lots of things included in the map and I wonder how people found them out? For example borders between municipalities. Can't be really done by "going out", can it? Place-name signs are located at streets but what OpenStreetMap already includes is way more detailed. So how did users find that out?

(26 Apr '13, 09:37) Markus_

yes, you can use local maps only if you could contact map creator and get permission from it.

(26 Apr '13, 10:03) erkinalp

We want to reinvent a wheel which everybody is allowed to use anywhere in any way he likes. To do so we must not copy parts from a proprietary, unfree wheel. See also here and here.
(I'd really like to know why quite often people want to contribute to OpenStreetMaps by coping from copyrighted sources!)

(27 Apr '13, 11:39) malenki

Well, look at the Wikipedia project. They also use information from proprietary sources and mention them as sources (as the bare information is probably not protected, they needn't to ask if they can use the information). But I see it might be a hard-to-find distinction between "use an information" and "copying" when it comes to using information from other maps.

(28 Apr '13, 12:12) Markus_

Wikipedia's policy on source copyright is much less stringent than ours. For example, they encourage contributors to source lat/lon co-ordinates from Google Maps, while we actively forbid it. It's not a good comparison.

OpenStreetMap is not a playground for your interpretation of copyright law. We have a simple policy: we are whiter than white. If you want to contribute data that is of questionable legality, please do so to another project.

Also, to cut a very long story short: database rights.

(28 Apr '13, 17:02) Richard ♦

Okay then – how to find these not-so-obvious things out without violating the OSM policies? There are small paths/streets in my (!) village of which I do not know the name exactly and there aren't always signs telling the names. How to find out the information without using other maps? And, so far nobody answered me how borders between municipality were found out. Are there sources that can be used for that?

(28 Apr '13, 18:29) Markus_

If you can't get the information using legitimate sources, you can't get the information. There is no universal "right to enter data into OSM" that trumps copyright law. Often paths and streets don't actually have names, but I'd suggest asking local people - they might know.

As for borders: many Governments have released open data which can be incorporated into OSM. Failing that, in the UK, we used out-of-copyright maps, and we looked for the logos on wheelie-bins in each area. :)

(28 Apr '13, 19:21) Richard ♦
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

Drop an email to the local fishing organization to at least cross the information.

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answered 27 Apr '13, 18:51

yvecai's gravatar image

accept rate: 9%

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question asked: 25 Apr '13, 20:28

question was seen: 6,186 times

last updated: 08 Dec '22, 06:36

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